As I’m sure most of you have heard by now, the newest episode of Glee, “Shooting Star,” touches on the controversial subject of school violence. In the wake of the recent Newtown shooting, this seems like a cheap and grubby ploy for ratings, but Glee has been known to (attempt to) address major issues before - see the domestic violence episode or Kowalski’s attempted suicide - so this isn’t entirely out of left field.
The only question is - is it worth it? Does the episode benefit from the inclusion of this sort of plot line?
Touchy and taboo subjects such as these have been addressed to great effect in the past, and sometimes the point of art is to push people’s faces into the horrors of their own reality.
So let’s try to give Glee the benefit of the doubt before we completely tear it apart.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. THIS IS AN ANALYSIS OF THE FULL STORY SO I WON’T BE HOLDING ANYTHING BACK. (as if anyone cares about Glee spoilers)
Sneak away, inexplicable spoilers fearers
Before we even get into the meat of the discussion, it must be said that this episode starts off on a truly awful note. The first two acts of this one hour show revolve around Brittany predicting the impact of a meteor on Lima, Ohio and the imminent deaths of all its inhabitants. For some reason, everybody takes her seriously (come on, Glee. I’ve read a fortune cookie with a more believable story than that) and starts thinking about Last Songs they should sing to their loved ones.
Or something like that.
Honestly, it was hard to pay attention or be even remotely invested in this tripe.
This episode also features recurring character Shannon Beiste, the heavyset football coach confessing her love to Will Schuester because they might all die soon so why not tell him, right?
Honestly, the shooting couldn’t come soon enough. I’d heard about the controversy before watching the episode and was interested in seeing how they handled the material. Little did I know I would be forced to sit through 20 minutes of Days of Our Lives first.
I have two questions:
First, the basic one - Why the blerg would anyone believe Brittany’s premonition? It’s not like there’s an actual news station covering it and it’s called something like *gag* “B Tubbington Bop.”
Even if this were true, and a meteor was about to hit Lima Ohio, destroying the town… Move. Get out of there. Don’t just lie down and accept your fate.
Anyway, this really isn’t relevant to the point I’m trying to make, but that’s just it, isn’t it? The first two acts are completely unrelated to the second, except for a loose theme of “Last Songs” that connects the two plot lines about as effectively as using a piece of gum as a trailer hitch.
Anyway, it turns out that the meteor Brittany saw in her telescope was just a ladybug in a Pringles can. No, really.
Also she sings a love song to a cat.
I’m so done
So this is the plot that Glee’s biggest dramatic experiment is tacked onto. And you know what the worst part is?
The third act is brilliant.
You heard me. When gunshots go off in the hallway and the Glee kids, along with Will and Beiste, huddle in the dark contemplating their fates and those of their loved ones, it is truly harrowing and heart wrenching. Gone are the lavish showtunes, the cheerful a cappella score, and the ham handed high school drama.
The music is off, the lights are down, and the characters are stripped to the core, reduced to raw emotion and heart. Artie records his classmates’ potential final messages to their parents and this reviewer dissolves into a blubbering heap of a human being.
We are treated to two absolutely unendurable shots - Brittany hiding in a bathroom stall, completely helpless and isolated
and Marley’s mother huddled behind a cafeteria rack as the day’s lunch boils over on the stove - watching as her phone buzzes just out of reach, unable to contact her daughter.
This is television drama at its best and most painful. It’s like a jackhammer to the heart, and my eyes are tearing up just writing about it.
These are some of the best scenes that the Glee team has ever produced and they are squandered in the next act.
It turns out that while, yes, there were gunshots, they were accidentally shot off without malice by somebody with no real intention to use the gun. The character in question is Becky Jackson - Coach Sue’s assistant- who is afraid of her life after high school as a teen with Down Syndrome. Which apparently translates to firearms? The complete lack of forethought and the script’s unintentional malice toward the mentally handicapped are flaws it is impossible to recover from.
Coach Sue stands up for Becky, taking the blame for the gunshots and losing her job in the process. (What this means for Jane Lynch - who knows? It has been reported that she has an eight week engagement as Miss Hannigan inAnnie, so we might not be seeing Sue Sylvester for a while)
This episode’s plot is resolved in typical deus ex machina fashion, while the Glee kids, who were never in any real danger, sneak away from a mandatory school assembly to sing a John Mayer song.
It makes me miss theRocky Horrorepisode, which I never would have thought possible.
This is what I was afraid of. The shooting was a less than seamless part of a plot that had absolutely nothing to say.
Not that I’m exactly in support of the “everybody learns a valuable lesson” style of scriptwriting, but if you’re going to include a plotline as contentious as a school shooting, even if it turns out to be a false alarm - make a point about it.
The wrap-up gives the harrowing events of the day before about the same importance as the freaking meteor.
This episode makes a mockery of some absolutely wonderful and emotional moments, and it is such a waste. It almost would have been better if there had actually been a real shooting. If Glee forced itself to actually deal with the issue it was trying to touch upon instead of shying away from it, the episode could have had real, positive, and lasting impact and completely negated the controversy surrounding it.
Instead, the controversy is merely used to boost ratings and a ten minute television gem is reduced to a cheap ploy for attention. This is Glee at its very worst, because it shows us a small taste of what a great show it could have been before shoving that plotline aside and ending in a great big group hug.